SHANGHAI, April 19 (Xinhua) -- China has been prioritizing environmental protection in recent years, and the development of a circular economy has created a huge market for global investors, according to French environmental services giant SUEZ.
"We will not invest with our own cash in all the markets we are in, but China is one priority. The market's business is good, and the government is supportive and transparent," Steve Clark, CEO of SUEZ Asia, told Xinhua on the sidelines of the IE Expo 2019, an annual exhibition featuring the latest developments in the environmental protection technologies and services.
Clark, who has been doing business in China for 20 years, said the awareness of green development has been rising fast.
Local government officials used to pay more attention to GDP growth, but now they like to talk about the environment, he said. "The emphasis and priority on environmental protection are stronger and stronger."
Clark said the wastewater treatment, which has big impact on people's lives, has improved river water quality in China.
"I can see the rivers in Beijing and other cities are clearer than before," he said, adding that the introduction of the "river chief" mechanism, which assigns officials to be directly responsible for local river environmental protection, has proven fruitful.
SUEZ NWS, a joint venture between SUEZ and Hong Kong-based NWS Holdings Ltd. to operate SUEZ Greater China business, has been in China for over 40 years. The joint venture has built more than 260 water plants and wastewater treatment plants in the Greater China area and now offers professional environment management services to 13 mainland industrial parks such as the Shanghai Chemical Industry Park. Its managed revenue reached 1.3 billion euros in 2018.
Clark said when entering the Chinese market about two decades ago, foreign investors might prefer big cities like Beijing and Shanghai out of operation concerns, but now "the implementation of standards is more consistent across the country."
The development of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area is creating fresh business opportunities for SUEZ. SUEZ NWS has just won three water management and waste recovery contracts in the Greater Bay area for a total of 250 million euros.
The company has been working with the Ministry of Ecology and Environment to provide its expertise for managing hazardous waste disposal facilities since 2014. It aims to launch two projects in hazardous waste treatment in China each year, according to Clark.
"We are confident in the Chinese market and will continue to invest in China's environmental transition," he said.